Deductive Reasoning in the Workplace
By Indeed Editorial Team
Updated 22 November 2022
Published 25 August 2020
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
There are many tools you can use to improve your decision-making process at work. Deductive reasoning often occurs as part of your normal thought process, and when used correctly, can help you better assess situations and make more effective decisions. In this article, we explore what deductive reasoning is and how you can use it and other types of reasoning you can use in the workplace.
What is deductive reasoning?
Deductive reasoning, also called top-down reasoning, is the process of drawing a conclusion based on premises generally assumed to be true. Since deductive thought uses only information assumed to be accurate, it does not include emotions, feelings or assumptions without evidence because it's difficult to determine the accuracy of this information.
The best example of deductive reasoning is the if/then statement. If something is assumed to be true and another thing relates to the first assumption, then the original truth must also hold true for the second thing. For example, if your friend is very strong but they cannot pick up their suitcase, then you can safely use deductive reasoning to assume that the suitcase must be quite heavy.
Here are some examples to help you better understand deductive reasoning:
In the UK, you must pass the Legal Practice Course (LPC) in order to become a solicitor. If you fail the LPC, then you will not be a solicitor who is able to represent someone legally.
Your boss said the person with the most sales would get a promotion at the end of the year. You generated the most sales, so you are looking forward to a promotion.
Your new employer says that they observe all bank holidays. Therefore, on the next bank holiday, you will have a day off from work.
A customer is dissatisfied with how long it takes for a return phone call. Therefore, if you provide a quicker response, they will be more satisfied.
You must have 40 credits to graduate from university. You have 41, so you will be able to graduate.
The counselling centre at the university is offering free CV reviews to students. You are a student and plan on having your CV reviewed, so you will not have to pay anything for this service.
While deductive reasoning is considered a reliable form of testing, it's important to recognise it may sometimes lead to a false conclusion. This generally occurs when one of the first assumptive statements is false.
Refer back to the original example with the strong friend and the suitcase. Through deductive reasoning, you can infer that, because the strong friend cannot lift the suitcase, then the suitcase must be heavy. This is the logical answer. However, there may be a different reason why the strong friend cannot lift the suitcase. Maybe their wrist is sprained or the material of the suitcase is too slippery. These answers are less logical than the suitcase being heavy but demonstrate the limits of deductive reasoning.
Related: 10 Best Skills to Include on a CV
Other types of reasoning
In addition to deductive reasoning, there are two other common methods of reasoning known as inductive and abductive.
Inductive reasoning also referred to as cause-and-effect reasoning, is the act of using specific scenarios and making generalised conclusions from them. It can be thought of as a bottom-up approach and is often used to create a hypothesis rather than apply them to different scenarios. With inductive reasoning, the accuracy of the outcome is probable but not always true, even if each of the first two statements is accurate.
For example, you might observe that your younger brother is very messy, your friend's younger brother is also messy and your mum's younger brother is messy. Through inductive reasoning, you can then come to the conclusion that all younger brothers are messy.
Here are several examples of inductive reasoning:
All the supervisors in your office have university degrees. Therefore, you must have a university degree in order to be a manager.
The queue at the job centre is always the longest by 10 a.m. So, if you arrive before 10 a.m., the line will be shorter.
Your manager said someone with a high level of performance will be getting a promotion at the end of the year. Your performance has been extremely high, therefore you will be getting a promotion.
One day, your boss is lenient and does not mind that you are late. You are late to the office every day. Therefore, you will never be reprimanded for being late to work.
Each of these statements could imply the final premise to be true. However, it is also possible that the first assumption is not rooted in fact, which means the conclusion could also be false.
Abductive reasoning uses all of the available information, complete or incomplete, to determine the most likely outcome. Even though it uses the best information currently available, abductive reasoning is usually not enough to make a fully informed, certain conclusion and is simply an educated guess. It is also possible that the conclusion cannot be tested.
Here is an example of abductive reasoning: If you saw your manager speaking to an executive in the conference room, you could only make a hypothesis as to the subject matter of the conversation, especially if both parties wanted to keep the conversation private.
Using deductive reasoning in your career
By implementing this systematic approach to your most important workplace decisions, you can make better, more informed decisions that impact your work and career. Here are a few specific ways you can use deductive reasoning to draw conclusions throughout your career.
Using deductive reasoning in the workplace
You can use deductive reasoning when finding and acquiring a job, hiring employees, managing employees, working with customers and making a variety of business or career decisions. The process of deductive reasoning includes the following steps:
Make an assumption based on a generalised statement or idea that if one thing is true, it must be true in all cases.
Determine the second premise, which is the educated hypothesis in relation to the general assumption. So if the first statement is true, then the second related statement must also be true.
Test your initial assumption by gathering more information or putting the hypothesis into action to see the results.
Review your conclusion after testing to see if your assumption and hypothesis were true or false.
Here are some areas you can utilise deductive reasoning:
Problem-solving: In all careers, you are required to use problem-solving skills to overcome challenges and discover effective solutions. You can apply the deductive reasoning process to your problem-solving efforts by first identifying an accurate assumption you can use as a foundation for your solution. Deductive reasoning often leads to fewer errors because it reduces the guesswork. For example, there is a communication problem between two departments. Both departments want to work on the problem. Therefore a joint meeting between the two departments will find the best solution.
Teamwork: Teams are often composed of employees with varying work styles, which can impact collaboration. Using the process of deductive reasoning, you can identify where the problem lies, draw accurate conclusions and help team members align. For example, your team is experiencing low morale based on recent employee interviews. Everyone likes free food in the office. Therefore, buying lunch for everyone can improve morale.
Customer service: You can apply deductive reasoning skills to determine an appropriate solution to a customer's problem. By identifying what the customer is unhappy about and then connecting it to what you know about their experience, you can adequately address their concern and increase customer satisfaction. For example, the client says they are unhappy speaking on the phone. You have meeting rooms available in your office. Therefore, it may be best to have the next meeting with the client in one of the meeting rooms.
Highlighting deductive reasoning on your CV and cover letter
Because many employers value problem-solving abilities, it's helpful to highlight your deductive reasoning skills during the hiring process. You can demonstrate your deductive reasoning knowledge by listing it as a skill on your resume or sharing it within a cover letter.
Example: 'As a business analyst, I frequently use deductive reasoning, critical thinking and research to make effective adjustments to the company's spending'.
Highlighting deductive reasoning in a job interview
During interviews, discuss examples of how you use deductive reasoning in your current role or how you'll apply this skill in your new position. A great way to discuss how you can utilise deductive reasoning in a professional environment is through the STAR method. Explain the situation you were in, the task you had to complete, the actions you took and the results of your effort.
Example: "In my previous teaching role, I was responsible for implementing new programs into my classroom to better engage students. Since the class typically played football during playtime, I assumed a sports program would be my first project. I made a simple questionnaire for the students to fill out that asked them about their favourite and least favourite things to do in the classroom and outside. I discovered that some of the students loved playing football, but the majority of students actually preferred computer games that challenged them.
Because I asked for the students' input, I was able to create two separate programs instead of one. I held a bi-weekly football training program during playtime to help them improve those skills, and I established time every week for them to play learning-focused computer games".
Disclaimer: The model shown is for illustration purposes only, and may require additional formatting to meet accepted standards.
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